I always love these types of replies. They're just so darn useful aren't they?
"Most would say..." Really? If "most" people think it's crap it's got to be true!
No elaboration on why you wouldn't choose either? That's helpful.
Several others have asked the OP's question recently. I'll combine the posts I've written as replies:
I'll be honest. I was in the same position as you when deciding what AR to buy on a budget. Do I buy a complete rifle? Do I build a lower & top it off with an upper? When I started doing my initial research, I was overwhelmed with the myriad of AR build options & details.
Even though I'm mechanically inclined & a tinkerer, I erred on the side of caution. I purchased my S&W M&P 15-Sport. I don't delude myself into believing that I'm a "tactical operator". When I put my skills & use into context, the S&W M&P 15-Sport fulfills my needs at the right price.
While I understand the need for a dust cover, the omission of it wouldn't be an issue for my use. I'm at a range. I'm not running & gunning nor competing in any three gun competitions.
While I understand the purpose & function of a forward assist, the omission of it isn't an issue given my skill level. If a round does not fully chamber, I can gently push on the scallop on the bolt to get it into full battery. If the bolt does not go into battery, my inexperience with the AR platform combined with a forward assist could cause a bigger problem. I'd rather eject the round that won't properly chamber & inspect it, than be an idiot jamming on the forward assist making things worse.
While I understand the benefits of chrome lined barrels, the fact is that I'm obsessive about cleaning my firearms after every range visit. A chrome lined barrel isn't a priority for the way I will use an AR.
My lack of knowledge also gave me pause. If it breaks, will I have the tools, resources, & knowledge to fix it on my own? The S&W's limited lifetime factory warranty is a security blanket for this newbie AR owner.
Is it the best? Is it the most tactical? Probably not. The S&W M&P 15-Sport is a good practical, all-round rifle. For this AR newb, it is serving as a great gateway to the AR addiction.
It's barrel is chambered for 5.56, so I can shoot .223 or 5.56. The 1:8 5R rifling is the "Goldilocks" rifling. I can shoot ammo with projectile weights in the middle of the range. I don't shoot projectile weights nearing either end of the range. The Melonite treatment makes cleaning easy.
As others have advised, you can assemble your own lower & top it off with a complete upper for about the same price. This advice & then post purchase reaction was always given with a good-hearted ribbing.
Being mechanically inclined & a tinkerer, I the thought of building a lower stuck with me. Having the S&W M&P 15-Sport allowed me to really look at the lower to see how it's all put together. I decided to give it a try.
I was a bit apprehensive to build my own lower. I shouldn't have been. If you follow directions step-by-step, assembling a lower is not difficult. I found it to be easy to do. The parts are as plug & play as they get.
Even though I built a budget lower, using standard parts, I take a measure of pride in assembling it. Assembling my own was also a learning experience. I know how a basic AR lower functions.
IMO, you can't go wrong either buying a complete rifle like a S&W M&P 15-Sport, or taking the plunge & assembling a lower + topping it off with a complete upper.
Either way, you'll end up with a good rifle within your budget.
As for me the more I learn about the AR, the more I realize that there's so much more I don't know. I'm always learning something new.
Good luck with your decision, & let us know how it turns out for you.